Assignment: Canadian Politics

Vantage College

Poli 101: Canadian Politics

Policy Brief Guidelines

 

Format: 3-5 pages in length (between 800 and 1200 words), double-spaced, standard fonts and margins; citation style must be APA or APSA.

Description of content: A Policy Brief provides a short, to-the-point, evidence-based overview of an issue. It is designed to bring busy decision-makers up to speed with a problem and to present them with options, where appropriate. The main goal is to empower the reader with the ability to respond knowledgeably and intelligently to a policy challenge.

 

Your brief could be about either a domestic policy issue or a foreign policy issue. However please note that a foreign policy issue would require a much wider level of research and knowledge (such as the policies of other foreign powers, historical information on the issue at hand, and so on…)

 

Possible Topics for the Policy Brief:

These are only a few ideas to guide you. You can use any one of the topics below but you are also welcome (and even encouraged) to come up with your own topic suggestions. Please speak to the instructor with your alternative topics.

 

A ‘Trump’ moment?

Write a brief to the Prime Minister analyzing the extent to which Canada is vulnerable to an angry ‘populist’ movement of the sort that brought Donald Trump to power in the United States, and what measures if any, are needed to prevent such a movement.

 

Millennials in Politics

Write a brief to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth examining the ‘Millennial’ cohort in Canadian politics, making well-researched recommendations for strategies for addressing its concerns and/or engaging it politically.

 

Parliamentary under-representation

Write a brief to the Minister of Democratic Institutions examining the under-representation of women, OR racialized groups (sometimes called ‘visible minorities’), OR another under-represented demographic in Parliament, making well-reasoned recommendations as to what, if anything, should be done to address the issue, and why.

 

Prime ministerial power

Write a brief for Democracy Watch (a non-partisan advocacy group concerned with the quality of Canadian democracy) examining the question of whether the prime minister is too powerful within the Canadian system, and if so, recommending measures for reform.

 

The Crown: abolition of the monarchy

Write a brief to the Prime Minister offering a well-reasoned argument as to whether Canada should abolish the monarchy upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and if so, what should replace it.

 

Housing costs

Write a brief to B.C.’s Minister Responsible for Housing examining (a) the causes and implications of sky-high housing costs in the province, especially the Lower Mainland, and (b) whether policy solutions are necessary, and (c) what forms these should take.

 

Quebec’s Bill C-62 (banning religious face-coverings)

Write a brief to the Canadian Minister of Justice analyzing Quebec’s Bill C-62, ‘Act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality,’ offering a well-reasoned assessment of the law and recommendations on how the federal government should respond to it.

 

Quebec separatism: a dead letter?

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth wants to know whether Canadian governments still need to worry about the threat of Quebec secession. Write a brief examining whether Quebec’s sovereigntist movement is in terminal decline, and if so, what explains this, before recommending how Ottawa should proceed in light of your findings.

 

Appointing Supreme Court Justices

Write a brief to the Minister of Justice examining whether Canada should reform its process for appointing Supreme Court Justices, and if so, what that reform should look like.

 

The ‘Notwithstanding Clause’ (Section 33 of the Constitution Act of 1982)

Write a brief to the Minister of Justice assessing Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the ‘notwithstanding clause’) and whether the federal government should work towards abolishing it.

 

Settler-Indigenous Reconciliation

Write a brief to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs exploring options for promoting ‘reconciliation’ with Indigenous peoples, making well-reasoned recommendations as to one or two of the most important initiatives Canada could adopt to attain this end, and what those initiatives would entail for the federal government.

 

Transmountain Pipeline Project

Write a brief to the Prime Minister about the reception of the pipeline project in Alberta and British Columbia, the possible advantages and disadvantages of the project, and what are the possible consequences of pursuing either path. In light of these points, what should Ottawa do regarding the pipeline.

 

Your policy brief should contain:

  1. An Executive Summary of one paragraph that concisely:
  2. establishes the problem and its importance,
  3. summarizes current approaches to the problem, and
  4. summarizes the brief’s recommendation(s).

(Hint: you might want to actually write this paragraph last, but of course it appears first in the brief you are submitting).

  1. A discussion of the relevant definitions, information, and context needed to understand the problem. E.g., a brief on poverty in Canada would define poverty, demonstrate its scope in Canada, and outline its damaging consequences.
  2. A discussion of the current state of policy regarding the problem. E.g., a brief on poverty in Canada would describe the main government programs that currently address poverty, and outline problems with those.
  3. These should consider noteworthy ‘cons’ as well as ‘pros’ associated with the recommendations. E.g. a brief on poverty in Canada might recommend a Guaranteed Annual Income because of gains in administrative efficiency, accessibility, and dignity for the poor, while also identifying concerns that it might remove incentives to work, and prove very costly.

 

For an example of a policy brief along these lines, see http://www.theadventurouswriter.com/blog/sample-policy-brief-guaranteed-annual-income-in-canada/

Briefs must be well-organized, efficiently-written, and highly readable; otherwise the busy policy professional will discard them and move on to other things. Effective briefs therefore make use of sub-headings and bulleted lists where appropriate.  You also are encouraged to make your brief visually appealing (through colour, formatting, etc.), but such visuals are not a requirement of a strong grade.

 

Sources and citation in Policy Briefs:

  • Sources: You need to use 3-4 sources from outside Poli 101. These must be scholarly or professional s The former include works published in peer-reviewed academic journals, or peer-reviewed books by scholars, published by university presses. The latter include works by policy professionals, such as research reports for governments, non-governmental organizations, or respected research institutes (‘think tanks’).
  • Citation: you are expected to CITE ALL BORROWINGS as you make them; i.e., cite all claims, ideas, and information that you did not invent, the moment you talk about them in the brief. Use APA or APSA format, making certain to include page numbers where possible: e.g., (Smith 2009, 15).
  • A Works Cited section should appear at the end of your brief, in alphabetical order

 

Sources for research: Your best resource should be the library, of course. Beyond that, the following resources may help.

  • Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP): http://irpp.org/ Arguably, the best ‘think tank’ in Canada. Click on the ‘Research’ link for a variety of promising downloads.
  • Policy Options: IRPP’s influential and accessible journal also can make a terrific starting point for research. Just make sure you’re accessing the journal itself rather than its blog. Current and back issues of Policy Options downloadable at: http://policyoptions.irpp.org/
  • Policy Magazine. Not unlike Policy Options, this journal offers short essays by leading experts and practitioners. Click the ‘Archive’ link or the ‘search’ symbol for a wealth of materials. http://www.policymagazine.ca/
  • D. Howe Institute: http://www.cdhowe.org/ Follow the ‘Research’ links to free stuff on a range of interesting issues, often from a right-of-centre perspective. Click on the ‘Policy Intelligence,’ then on the ‘Peer Reviewed Research’ links.
  • Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/. Look for ‘Reports and Studies’ under the ‘Publications’ tab.
  • The Fraser Institute: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/. This institute receives more media coverage than all other think tanks in Canada combined, according to The Globe and Mail. Although markedly right-wing and committed to ‘market solutions’ for every imaginable problem, it nonetheless has many free documents available! Look for ‘Research Studies’ under the ‘Research and News’ tab.
  • Canadian Parliamentary Review: http://www.revparl.ca/english/index.asp. Free online journal. Search the Archive and the current issue for interesting papers, mainly concerned with parliamentary and legislative matters in Canada.
  • Canadian Global Affairs Institute: http://www.cgai.ca/. Concerned mainly with foreign policy. Click on ‘Publications,’ then ‘Policy Papers.’

 

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